After being together for eight years, we've been asked by many of our friends and family members when we were planning on getting married. On September 16th, we finally put your minds at ease when Andrew popped the question in a wonderfully romantic way, and Allison unhesitatingly accepted.
To say that the trip was a surprise for Allison wouldn't be entirely true. Andrew had to at least let on that he was planning a weekend getaway for us so that we could both manage to have the days off work. But for months leading up to the trip, Andrew was sure to keep the whole thing shrouded in mystery. He did such a good job of not betraying anything about his plans that Allison began referring to the vacation as the "Super Secret Mystery Trip".
The first stop on our journey was—of course—coffee at Back to the Grind, where our pre-engaged dating life began. Armed with caffeine and a sweet feeling of nostalgia, we set off on the road. Around lunchtime, Allison realized that some of the sights were beginning to look familiar. Andrew pulled off the highway to reveal our second stop: Gainey Vineyards in Santa Ynez. We had visited Gainey during our central California wine tasting weekend the previous year and had loved everything about it. It was a very romantic (and very suspicious) to stop there again, enjoying wine tasting in their barrel room and taking a stroll through their vines, spotting wild birds and identifying species of grape vines, as per our usual. After a quick lunch, Andrew got us back on the road, and several hours of travel revealed our ultimate destination: Napa Valley.
It was late when we arrived, so we grabbed a quick dinner and checked into the hotel. But Andrew declared that the night was not yet over. After freshening up, we were back in the car on our way to a star party (our very first!), listening to volunteer astronomers give talks about different stars and constellations, and getting to view several through high-powered telescopes. It was a perfectly romantic evening, so very reminiscent of our many times stargazing. The evening seemed to be winding down. That is, until Andrew took Allison aside, looked deep into her eyes, and said, very seriously...
"Allison, I have a very important question to ask you. Will you...be...my love?" It took a moment to realize Andrew hadn't actually asked anything at all. His eyes got a mischievous look in them, and it was obvious he was teasing. Allison now knew for sure that Andrew planned to propose at some point that weekend, she just didn't know when. To her over-thinking, puzzling-solving brain, everything was now suspect. Which is surely why he had tipped his hand so early (evil, evil Andrew).
September 16th started out the way the most wonderful days do: with an amazing breakfast. Andrew took us to a tiny cafe by a park, which he picked specifically for its high-caliber corned beef hash. If there was any doubt in her mind that Andrew truly loved her, Allison was sure in that moment, tasting the best corned beef either of us has ever had. From there, we went drove through the beautiful Calistoga forests to our first stop, Sterling Vineyards.
Sterling is a gorgeous site... and would be a great place to propose. Perched atop a hill in the center of the valley, guests are ferried by aerial tram, swooping through the trees and above the grape vines, to the sprawling, modern-Grecian winery complex. Their winery tour conducts visitors past various tasting stations situated throughout luxurious patios with gorgeous views to promote enjoyment of said wines. As we lounged in the sunshine on one such open air tasting "room", Allison even spotted a castle on the hillside across the valley, nestled between vines and pines. What a view! And how very suspicious.
As it turned out, that castle houses a winery, which we would be visiting early that afternoon. (After a savory BBQ lunch, that is.) The Castello di Amorosa is an authentic Tuscan-style castle, built over the course of nearly 20 years by a dedicated individual with the dual passions for historical Italian architecture and wine. This Medieval flair fit perfectly with our interests of fantasy literature and gaming, and we were both excited to go inside. Perhaps this would be a great place to propose? Andrew got our will-call tickets and we began the castle tour, led around in a group, visiting the tall towers, decorated courtyards, great halls, winding dungeons, and deep underground barrel rooms. It was almost like experiencing an RPG adventure module! The tour ended with a tasting of their Italian-style wines, as we chatted with our fellow patrons and tour guide. After the final wine was poured and we sat making notes on the qualities of the wines, a Castello representative interrupted the tasting to announce that there had been a special contest, and we had been selected to receive a private reserve tasting on one of the castle towers.
As we were led away from the group, Allison's suspicion was piqued. Our new guide led us back through the dungeons and barrel rooms and up through the castle grounds. As we left the bustling crowds of visitors behind, the clever excuse to separate us from the group began to unravel, and Allison solved the puzzle. We were left alone at the bottom of a rustic wooden staircase lined with white candles, which led us upward to the top of a tan stone tower. Perched above the picturesque valley, Andrew got down on one knee to ask Allison to be together with him for the rest of their lives...and she said yes!